The Ideal Staffroom

Staffroom (The Big Idea Group)

This is a summary of an #ELTchat which took place on 8 November 2017 on Twitter. It is my 12th such summary – the rest can be found via a link at the top of this page.

@angelos_bollas set up the topic and moderated the hour long discussion, assisted by @Hada_ELT, who took over towards the end.   Although the topic was ‘the ideal staffroom’ many chatters reflected and shared the kinds of staffrooms they currently use or have recently experienced.    Some suggestions were made as to what makes a conducive environment to work in but given that there is often little choice for teachers the chat tended towards discussing things that they have to tolerate and how they create their own personal working space.  It was also the first #ELTchat to take place after the introduction of the new 280 character ‘limit’.

@angelos_bollas pointed out that not every school, or workplace for that matter, has a staffroom.  @MoreMsJackson suggested resources was a good place to start and @angelos_bollas asked what kind of resources are needed. Books were suggested.  For @teacherphili, the books required depends on whether you are teaching a fairly prescribed syllabus or you have to find your own materials. For @11thhourspecial (Marc Jones) an ELT library with some Applied Linguistics books was ideal. Rotate stock, too – otherwise people will just read the same stuff over and over, he added. @fionaljp said that ideally there would be a regular supply of freebie new course books from publishers. @angelos_bollas liked the idea of having photocopiable materials in the staffroom.

Fiona - booksAngelos - books

The whole library is in @Hada_ELT’s current staffroom –  teachers’ shelves as well as resources like a guillotine, paper.  @GlenysHanson had hanging files of worksheets, exercises, etc. Things lots of her colleagues used. These were either copied out of books or made by ourselves and were very useful when rushing into class. @Hada_ELT used to have these also but they were removed because of reasons of space.  @MoreMsJackson thought it depends how many different courses your centre or school has. The only places she has worked with physical files was a manageable centre with only young learners, maybe 15 different levels total and a summer school for teens so only 9 or 10 levels.

Glenys Marisa

@GlenysHanson wondered if we were talking about the interior decoration or people.   Garish colour schemes or anything that could give you a headache were off limits according to @teacherphili.   @fionaljp stated she would like the walls painted with IdeaPaint.  It’s a special paint that makes walls just like whiteboards so you can write all over them and erase!

Fiona Price  Angelos Fiona

Good wifi and reliable IT support was suggested by @fionaljp, and others agreed, although @eltplanning said there was no wifi in his staffroom.  Access to coffee, biscuits and bottles of water also seemed important for many.   @GlenysHanson, for example, stated that they have access to a real coffee machine as well as a microwave. She added that talking to colleagues was the most useful resource she found in the teachers’ room!  @MoreMsJackson agreed, saying that discussing problems with other teachers is an important part of an ideal staffroom, something which chatters returned to later.

HadaAngelos Hada

@Hada_ELT ideally wants a place to unwind, but her current staffroom is packed with desks and shelves and there is no room to stretch your legs.   She also asked how chatters felt about loud conversations between colleagues – who sometimes just need to unwind – while you’re trying to meet a deadline?  @Marisa_C stated that they have a library which is our quiet space when things get too noisy – thinking of a nice comfy couch for that room actually!!  Headphones are an essential staffroom item for @MoreMsJackson and @ITLegge, who works in a ‘crazy noisy open-plan’ office@seburnt added he just puts in earphones or goes somewhere quiet.  @GlenysHanson stated that when she needed a quiet place, she went to the ‘mediacentre’.  This feature is found in universities rather than language schools.  It was generally agreed that in universities there more options and quieter places to work.


Jackson HadaKate

One aspect of @teacherphili‘s summer university job was the amount of space… if the staffroom got too noisy he could go off to a quieter room or the library and still access all the material by signing in to whatever PC was there. But he admitted being guilty of having loud conversations, as has @eltplanning@KateLloyd05 thought she might have to steal the ‘inner voice’ request, which was mentioned, for her situation:

Phil Peter Pun

A solid, reliable photocopier was raised by many.  @fionaljp needs one that never breaks down.  @MoreMsJackson stated that she had worked in quite a few places with (access to) more than one photocopier.  It’s handy to be able to run to another when one is jammed/broken and you’re in a rush. @KateLloyd05  said that having two in their staffroom was excellent, they even have names.  @teacherphili lamented last minute photocopying and the lack of toner, toner, toner – or reducing TTT as @Hada_ELT joked. @naomishema asked if we photocopied tests on our own. @KateLloyd05‘s tests are sent to the university printing service and prepared for teachers.

Naomi Phil Hada Phil

@naomishema also asked if chatters can freely discuss problems with students or classes in the staffroom and get support.  Discussing problems with other teachers is an important part of an ideal staffroom replied @MoreMsJackson.   Absolutely vital necessity added @fionaljp.  However @naomishema recently experienced poor support:

Naomi FionaKate Marisa

Ideally a space away from students was key for many including @Hada_ELT@teacherphili asked if a staffroom should be a place where only the teachers can go, a space that is out of bounds to students?  Ideally, answered @angelos_bollas, although in some situations the students are allowed in.   @Hada_ELT agreed with having the privacy and being able to remove oneself from the teaching area.  . When @teacherphili started out in Korea little kids would be running around his desk … no separation between class and staffroom.  @Hada_ELT said that when she was a school teacher, she used to let the kids into the staffroom, but they knew to be on their best behaviour – which was OK.

@teacherphili‘s summer pre-sessional staffroom was an important place where he could plan, mark and generally not have students around… It had a huge number of PCs (2 per teacher if needed).  It was, however, ‘room 101’.  He didn’t like the staffroom assigned to full-time employees as it involved ‘hot-desking.’  Another pre-sessional tutor @ShannonThwaites didn’t have a staff room in the summer. They took over a computer room but other staff and students still used it.

Towards the end, @Hada_ELT asked participants to describe their ideal staffroom in less than 10 words, which continued into the ‘slowburn’..

Hada - 10 words tweetElisabeth JacksonAlphabet PublishingNaomi

Fionaljp2KamilaLinkovaHelen LeggeMalachy Scullion  Hada Glenys  Marc Jones

Peter Pun 2

This was a friendly, lively chat with not many disagreements or controversies.   While many teachers have their own particular requirements of a staffroom, many seemed to make the most of what they had, even if some wished for more nespresso, space, working photocopiers and general peace away from the students.  Chatters spoke of what they had rather than what would ideally like although Hada’s final question – to summarise in less than 10 words – was a useful way to end.

Furthermore, in respect of ‘words limits’ – this was also the very first ELTchat which was able to take advantage of the new 280 character ‘limit’ on Twitter.  The general snapshot verdict was that this helped rather hindered the chat.   I had posted a poll (see below) on this issue on Twitter and also raised it on the #ELTchat Facebook group the previous month. Opinion was broadly split.  Some felt it would take too long to read participants’ comments.  In practice, however, chatters seemed to have more freedom to express themselves without having to use acronyms, abbreviations or editing a overlong draft.  It didn’t seem to slow things down. Having the option for longer tweets doesn’t mean that everyone will do so, of course, but the choice is there.  It certainly made writing the summary easier as I was able to understand what people wrote rather than trying to work out meaning from an abbreviated or short-hand tweet.  I like the change!

Phil - 280

Classroom spaces – inside and out

This is a summary of the #ELTchat which took place on Wed 28 June 2017.  It is a chat which I took part in, at the end of my first teaching day with a new bunch of students in Norwich and this is my 11th summary overall, although it is partly written with the chat DJ, Matthew Noble (@tesolmatthew).  It was basically written a few days after but is only now being published.

Matthew had set up the chat with the premise of discussing the physical space where teachers had taught in the past – be it inside or outside the normal confines of a classroom ‘box’. In addition he began the chat began with the following prompts:


It started slowly, but gradually chatters began to appear from out of their respective classroom woodwork and wallflower lurking.

@SueAnnan said “it looks like we are discussing classroom features which make it a good place to work … what makes an effective work space for you?”

@tesolmatthew wanted to hear about the positive and negative aspects of different teaching spaces.  @Kamilaofprague immediately suggested this was “a pretty standard idea but that the topic could be extended by [discussing] what we trade our lessons for: other lessons, goods, services and nothing”

@teacherphili wondered if by ‘classroom’ we meant 4 walls, desks, chairs and so on.  @sueannan thought 4 walls were important to be considered as one. @digteap felt if 4 walls is the defining feature then she had only ever taught in a classroom.

The idea of alternative class spaces, different and alternative payment practices was an idea that cropped up.  @digteap asked “so where have you all taught that’s not a classroom?”  This generated a large response from chatters with contributions, with some sharing photographic evidence, throughout the remainder of the chat and into the slowburn.

@sueannan said she likes spaces which are flexible. She taught in a room in Malta where the table was the size of the room, which was impossible to monitor. @digteap replied that she had experienced that – I guess we have 2 modify the way we teach depending on the environment. Nice to be able to move though.  Sue’s rooms have small tables which fit together and can be separated.  @Glenyshanson replied that is just perfect for her style. Too much furniture or desks that can’t be moved are awful. Students and teachers all need to be able to move.  @digteap stated that she actually quite like those old fashioned chairs that have little tables attached.  But @sueannan said she hates them –  students can’t spread out to work.  They can so easily be rearranged in groups, however, especially modern ones with wheels (see below) offered @digteap:

maria digteap tweet (2)

@Glenyshanson said that she had several portable whiteboards, which were very light and about the same size as my SW charts. Also carried pictures to get teens talking. That’s the benefit of using iPads, added @sueannan. They are brilliant for illustrating things. @MConca16 said she had taught outdoors in a London park on summer camps. @fionaljp stated that her first job was at a summer camp on a Turkish beach teaching children for 6 weeks. She has also taught taught doctors in a Spanish hospital at 8am in the morning.  @teacherphili stated that his first (voluntary) job was teaching under a mango tree in an orphanage, in Tanzania,  with hardly any resources – that was outside! He provided this accompanying image, too:

teacherphili tweet and tesolmatthew reply

@teacherphili: In Tanzania we had no board rubbers so we used our hands & cleaned them on the kids’ hair to get rid of the chalk.  @tesolmatthew wondered if anyone could top that for low-resource environment, before sharing his own photos. He taught in a battered classroom in Sri Lanka – very very low resource. Chalk, one bench, even cattle roaming through because it was in a big open shed. He wrote: “That was my very first classroom. So it was only up from there!” and “ It allowed me to REALLY appreciate the basics of a modern space”. @EdLaur responded by saying ”Wow! I will never complain about not having a IWB again”.  Later, after the tsunami in Sri Lanka, @tesolmatthew did private lessons on board a beached dredger ship – another atypical classroom for sure! – his pics are shared below:


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

@sueannan says she has done the odd 1-2-1 class in a hotel space.   She had a recent request to teach from a student who wanted lessons in her own dining room.  She has taught, however, in other people’s kitchens.  Similarly, @teacherphili had recently been doing just that.  Both used iPads as their alternative whiteboard. Additionally, both Sue and Phil were given great coffee by their students during class.  

Tyson Tweet
At first, @seburnt thought a coffee shop was the only non-classroom place he had taught, but then revealed that he did turn his bedroom into a quasi 1-2-1 classroom for a while. A ‘bit inapproprié’ thought @digteap, while @teacherphili replied that he “would draw a big fat line at teaching IN my bedroom. Maybe online FROM my bedroom, at a push.” @seburnt said he didn’t have another appropriate space to do it.

@teacherphili said he was currently teaching at a university where everything – the walls, concrete buildings & even the inside of the lifts are grey, which sounded depressing, according to @Sueannan, adding that she had one room with a purple wall.  @glenyshanson stated that she taught in a French uni with walls dripping with filth. Ss only complained when course went badly.  @Sueannan replied that she finds students often don’t notice. Hers only complain if something goes wrong with the toilets.   Another room had several pillars, added @glenyshanson.  She had to peer round them to see the students.  Mostly it was just ordinary classrooms. Square rooms are better than long, narrow ones for being able to see students and vice versa.  

@teacherphili mentioned that he’d been “teaching in other people’s dining rooms recently.  Kind of a classroom. I bring a portable whiteboard & markers + ipad” and @SueAnnan said “It’s great to put tables away when your class is small. Makes the room feel friendlier”. @glenyshanson said that she “had several portable whiteboards. Very light & about the same size as my SW charts. Also carried pictures to get teens talking”.

As usual, the 60-minute live #ELTchat was followed by 24 hours worth of ‘slowburn’. It wasn’t a particularly busy slowburn. Here are a few highlights:

@compellingtalks asked: “Can we also lobby for more schools to adopt best practices & modern furniture? Card tables & chairs w/wheels make students easier!”

@tesolmatthew shared another picture, writing: Aha! I found my pic of the ULTIMATE out-of-classroom scene. Raymond Murphy grammar study in a waterfall:


Rob Sheppard, who tweets at @robshpprd, said “For years I’ve dreamt of a classroom with yoga balls and modular tables on wheels”. To which @tesolmatthew responded: “Didn’t they do that in the 1970s with Bach on?”

robshpprd tweet and tesolmatthew reply

Soon afterwards, @tesolmatthew remembered another non-classroom teaching experience: “More non-classroom experience: worked mostly in the editing room but occasionally on set of a TV show”. And again he shared a picture:

tesolmatthew tweet
In the slowburn,  @lexicojules posted this:

lexicojules tweet

while @teacherphili added this: 
Teacherphili classroom spaces tweet

..and the conversation continued in response, blending into the ongoing dialogues taking place that week on twitter and elsewhere.  

If you have your own interesting classroom experiences then why not share them in the comments box.

Participants:  @tesolmatthew (moderator); @SueAnnan (moderator); @Kamilaofprague; @getgreatenglish; @Ven_VVE; @GemmaELT; @ITLegge; @ThisIsMattStott; @Fionaljp; @Teacherphili; @digteap; @seburnt; @MConca16; @RogersHistory; @harrisonmike; @GlenysHanson; @compellingtalks; @robshpprd; @FizzicsEd; @ElleninEdmonton; @CorineMerrill32; @LeoWill11; @TeresaBestwick; @lexicojules; @ELTdanbuller, @Marisa_C and myself, @teacherphili.




1-2-1 Teaching Tips – an #ELTchat summary

Startup Stock Photos

This is the summary of an #ELTchat which took place on 18 January 2017.  The full topic wording was ‘1-2-1 teaching tips – advice and best practice’.  It was moderated by @Marisa_C and @SueAnnan with @tesolmatthew taking over for the 24 hour slow-burn. Lots of great links and resources were shared during the chat and these are listed at the end of the summary.  A similarly themed topic was previously discussed on 16 February 2011 – see here.  A good introduction to 1-2-1 teaching can be found here.

I was personally interested in this topic because I have taught 1-2-1 before (both paid and as language exchange) and have just started doing so again.  It is very common for English language teachers to tutor students one at a time at some point in their career. Support and resources for doing it are less so.  For many it is a fundamental aspect of their teaching.  It requires a development of strategy, approach and material creation.

Needs Analysis

@SueAnnan kicked things off by stating the importance of doing a Needs Analysis.  You might be surprised by the number of Ts who don’t do it. You also need to revisit it from time to time.  Tailoring and finding the right material is important. @thebestticher stated that she tends to ask 1-2-1 students what topics and language they want as there is more opportunity to personalise.  @fionaljp thought this was vital.  @MConca16 said she always starts with a (structured) conversation class as a diagnostic.

@Marisa_C felt that doing a pretest and/or Needs Analysis was obvious to those participating, so asked who [currently] teaches 1-2-1 and wanted to hear some ideas.

Who teaches 1-2-1?

Most of @SueAnnan’s Business English students are 1-2-1 – both oral and written. They have super interesting jobs. She thinks all levels are interesting and learns as much as her students sometimes.

@MConca16 said she did 1-2-1 as well as 2-2-1 exam preparation. @fionaljp said she wasn’t but needed to give advice to those who may. @TeresaBestwick didn’t have any either, while @teacherphili said he was about to start again soon, but had previously focused on exam preparation as well as one young Chinese learner who mostly played games and did pronunciation practice.

@David_Boughton stated that he likes the two ends of the spectrum, basic or very advanced.  He finds the classic intermediates work so much better in group classes. Most of the activities out there are for them.  @Marisa_C felt any age is suitable but activities are very different with young learners – mostly play.

@fionaljp said she asked them to bring in texts of interest for discussion, to summarise and explain interest.  Local newspapers provide material suggested @SueAnnan.

There was general consensus that you can’t switch off in 1-2-1.  It can be more tiring. You can’t set pair work. @fwalkerbcn said that you have to be on the ball, and be prepared to change the lesson plan on the spot. @thebestticher said she often tends to ask 1-2-1 students what they want – both topics and language – as there is more opportunity to personalise…@joannacre agreed, saying she often changes her lesson plan based on what her learner wants. It’s easier to do this with 1-2-1.

@SueAnan said that if students bring work with them, they can become the teacher as they explain it, which is good for presentation practice. @thebestticher found that 1-2-1 young learners like to ‘be the teacher’ otherwise interaction is intense. It is a good idea to walk away or do another task  while the student is working to make it less so.  Or give them a research or listening task, added @Marisa_C. @fwalkerbcn felt this was difficult if you were in their living room, but you can always do something else to break it up, said Marisa_C . @fwalkerbcn hadn’t really found this as her classes were not long anyway. @MConca said that time is money …  she doesn’t ‘waste’ time for quiet individual work or written feedback.


@Marisa_C said they give them lists of extra listening and reading to do as self access and asked if anyone else tried this. @MConca16 replied ‘self-access practice for general English 1-2-1. [For] exam prep, she does a few with them for exam strategy then switch[es] to self-access.’

A popular blog post on eflrecipes (Jonny Ingham) was highlighted by @fionaljp.  In this the author says that the less structured approach can benefit from is “a good amount of overt feedback and error correction. One approach is for the teacher to take notes throughout the lesson on new language and areas of difficulty.”

Teacher Talking Time


Teacher Talking Time was a concern for @David_Boughton.  He asked how it can be kept down in 1-2-1.  Did we care as much as a group class?  @teacherphili said good planning. Silence & processing time is important, too.  @David_broughton liked that. We probably are more likely to cut the processing time shorter in 1-2-1. It’s just natural, he replied. @Marisa_C said it was difficult because the teacher is the only interlocutor. It’s very easy to get carried away with TTT.  @joannacre said she makes her students do most of the reading, text and theories etc then comment on stuff.

@SueAnnan asked if  the participants do roleplays or simulations when you have to play a part? @David_Boughton replied ‘All the time. My favourite thing to do in 1-2-1. You have more control, so they often go much better.’  Role-plays are essential, according to @MConca16, especially when you’ve taught a student for years and need new stuff.


@Marisa_C asked the chatters if they blended their 1-2-1 classes at all? even f-2-f classes do u flip or assign online work? She said Russell Stannard presented on her Delta course how to use Edmodo and it’s great.  She wasn’t previously aware of all its functions. @fionaljp said she was going to use it next week. @fwalkerbcn said her students watched TED Talks before class.  She also uses Edmodo for online quizzes, etc and asked if anyone else uses it for 1-2-1?  @Marisa_C said not but they did use wikis, often dedicated to one student. @MConca16 used emails for writing tasks and marking/feedback. She added that reasons for 1-2-1 students to ask for individual courses is to have a real person to practise language orally with & get feedback. @SueAnnan felt they don’t want much tech. @David_Boughton agreed, saying that tech can take away from what they signed up for, namely access to a teacher.

off2class-tweet@thebestticher mentioned Off2Class, which offers an online placement test and games which she is planning to start investigating. @fwalkerbcn said Off2Class is fantastic. She uses it a lot with my 1-2-1 classes and is great for online use. It’s well worth exploring. They’re always updating- if you need a topic, they do their best to create a class for it, she added.


@Marisa_C asked what tools were used to engage your 1-2-1 adult vs 1-2-1 young learners. Listening are perhaps issues for Ts.  Audioboom and Vocaroo were mentioned by @fionaljp, who also offered two recording tools – Audioboom, Vocaroo – which still exist, unlike Voxopop which appears to have finished.

@SueAnnan used podcasts. There are some great podcasts available from BBC world service.  @joannacre pointed out that Harvard review org has some good free podcasts for adult learners. Later on, @rapple18 said Harvard has GREAT stuff inc. both reading, text and audio. @tesolmatthew added later that an ongoing podcast would be great.

MConca16 said that @tablets & mobiles phone for teens work as motivators. @fwalkerbcn stated that linguahouse  and OneStopEnglish have great lesson plans for adults.

@Marisa_C offered several more tools during the chat, including @educreations, Voice Thread (for connecting more than one student), Schoology, Voxi, Explain Everything and Show Me. She mentioned in-browser apps such as Google docs or Primary Pad for collaborative writing and gave a shout out for the prolific Sean Banville (who was given a mention in the previous weeks’ chat).

@SueAnnan said she liked working with English Central, which students can do at home and improve pronunciation, but the latter feature could be improved according to @Marisa_C.  @fwalkercbn said she never really got on with it.  @SueAnnan added that it works well when they do it as blended stuff. @tesolmatthew was impressed with the way the tool works.  The principle of isolating and highlighting phrases is one that appealed to @Marisa_C.

@David_Boughton said he had used English360 for a few years with a school he worked for. Although a lot of the resources are not useful. You only pay for the student – but there are LOADS of resources available, added Marisa_C. @David_Boughton added that he built out about 6 levels worth of courses. It must have been 100s of hours. @Marisa_C said it was an opportunity [for] long turn speaking activities, like storyboard karaoke and board games.

Slow burn

In the slow burn, @rapple18 added her thoughts. Her list includes must-haves: a phone (=diary, map, aud/vid recorder), A3, coloured pens, today’s newspaper, relevant article, rods.  She always try to add 3rd dimension to break the teacher-student eye-contact line, eg postits, cards, A3, ie lots hands-on activities. Student has goal e.g. a conference presentation. On a recent 12wk course: videoed a presentation at work. 1st. Input: personal’d+focused. Motivation high.  If 1-2-1 ESP (re motivating the T!) use as opportunity to learn about student’s area of speciality. Can be bizarre but rewarding and fun!  She also linked to material she wrote for OUP.

@tesolmatthew said that his most involved ‘1-2-1 teaching happened +/-8 months, 2014. Met a Thai eye doctor in residence @ Boston hospital 2ce/wk for 2rs. Something we did was we wrote into the same notebook, sat very close, both wrote in, so prez+notes = same.’ Examples here.  He also believed that it can be EASIER to keep TTT down in the 1-2-1 context, using prompt-listen-respond-prompt sequence etc.

During the slow-burn @joannacre posted her 200th blog post about ‘websites, videos & random stuff I use in class’ which has some relevance.


This was a great chat with lots of ideas and resources shared.  It is one that I will come back to, along with the previous #ELTchat on this topic, as I do more 1-2-1 teaching myself.  There were lots of tools and resources – links listed below.  I have consistently used the phrase ‘1-2-1’ to mean ‘one to one’ although for brevity some participants used ‘1-1’ in the chat.  If you have any more ideas or thoughts please add a comment below.

Participants who were present and/or tweeted during the chat, alongside the moderators:

David__Boughton@fionaljp, @thebestticher, @fwalkerbcn@teachingright, @TeresaBestwick, @MConca16, @joannacre, @teacherphili, @bar_zie, @aahk888, @amauryrez, @SerraRoseli  and @rapple18.

Links and tools shared during the chat:

Appleby, R, Bradley, J. Brennan, B, Hudson J, Leeke, N and Scrivener, J. Business one:one Intermediate Plus. Oxford University Press.

BBC Learning English

Educreations –

English 360 –

English Central –

English File (Oxford University Press) –

Explain Everything –

Harvard Review Org (podcasts for adult learners) e.g. ‘Productivity Secrets of a Very Busy Man Harvard Business Review’. 7 Apr 2011.  and

Ingham, J. 3 May 2015. Recipes for the EFL classroom: ‘My one-to-one students just wants to chat’.

Kaye, P. 18 July 2007. British Council ‘Teaching one to one’.

Linguahouse –

Off2Class – The ESL Teacher Toolkit

One Stop English –

PechaFlickr –

Primary Pad –

Sean Banville‘s many websites including Breaking News English

Show Me –

VoiceThread –

Voki (for young learners) –

cover image: ‘one to one teaching’ from – reproduced under a CCO licence.
– 22 January 2017


Teaching Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice Issues

This is the summary of an #ELTchat which took place on 23 November 2016.  It is the first summary I have contributed for over two years. It was moderated, expertly as always, by @Marisa_C, @SueAnnan and @angelos_bollas.

The full topic wording, proposed by current IATEFL president, Marjorie Rosenberg (@MarjorieRosenbe), was ‘How can we discuss diversity, inclusivity and social justice in the classroom in times as these?  

Marjorie shared many examples of reasons for the topic proposal with me outside of the chat: Brexit (the UK’s vote to leave the EU), the refugee crisis in Europe, the election of Donald Trump in the US, general division in the UK and US, and the rise of far-right groups, especially in Austria, where she is based. Her family has a strong background in public service. Her cousin is in the Obama administration and his wife founded a charity in Washington for underprivileged teenagers.  Her mother volunteered for years for several casues and this is one of the reasons she originally got involved in IATEFL – in order to give something back. Marjorie also highlighted a  forthcoming plenary by JJ Wilson at the next IATEFL conference in Glasgow 2017 on this very topic.

@SueAnnan led the discussion by stating that she teaches diversity in her Business English class.  Both @angelos_bollas and myself (@teacherphili) stated that it was not something they explicitly taught and asked how Sue includes this in BE classes? She replied that she does scenarios for employment roles. We discuss black, women, different religious, disabled and LGBTQ applicants and such like, she stated.  It gets the class started. She suggested that dealing with diversity actually meant discussing inclusivity at the same time.   She stated that her classes are always mixed, [so] tolerance is an absolute must. She later added that she has been discussing the recent cryogenics case in the UK. She had a class of doctors who were dead against it.

@fionaljp felt diversity is, maybe, more about what you do. @GlynsHanson agreed before adding that it depends on age of the students too.  She didn’t assume that she knew more on these subjects than her mainly adult students. Except for preparing TOEFL etc, her students chose the subjects – almost never the ‘hot’ subjects.  She added that she hadn’t had enough time for discussing the ‘big’ questions [of social justice].


@MarjorieRosenbe stated she had her students talk about things important to them. We had lots of refugees here in Austria, for example.  She covered these topics by talking about traditions, holidays, etc. My students opened up a lot and explained personal things.

@Chris_Myth said it can be hard. He sometimes get students with prejudiced views. ‘Do I argue with them for the sake of challenging prejudice’, he asked, ‘or do I take a teacher role where the teacher is not an authoritarian figure and students can speak without fear?’. @Angelos Bollas answered that it is very important for teachers to model what freedom of speech is – the teacher should monitor though and deal with sensitive issues. @Chris_Myth agreed and added that ‘if a student is being sexist/racist, then that could upset others, which shouldn’t be allowed to pass.’  Phil Bird (@pysproblem81) asked, that in some contexts, wouldn’t it be a legal requirement to challenge it?@Chris_Myth said that in the UK it is now a legal requirement to report potential terrorist sympathies. Whatever that means. @Angelos Bollas said that ‘also the opposite [applies] … some countries/institutions would not allow any discussions on these topics – sad. I think it boils down to what each thinks important: doing as said or what one thinks is right,’ he added. Fortunately, for @Chris_Myth, whenever this [prejudice] has happened, usually sexism, other students have argued against the prejudice.  If a student is being sexist/racist, then that could upset others, which shouldn’t be allowed to pass.

@TesolMatthew emphasised that, in his opinion, diversity, inclusivity and social justice are ON THE TABLE in all classrooms.


@Marisa_C agreed with this but, playing devil’s advocate,  said that some teachers think it is not their job to take care of such issues.  Maybe it’s more about promoting, offered @fionaljp.   @GlenysHanson tried to stoke a political fire by saying that she adored playing devil’s advocate, offering the suggestion that ‘I voted for Trump because of his hairstyle’. 😇 Something that neither @SueAnnan nor @angelos_bollas  could manage to say, even on a good day.  A role play with Trump, however, would be fab, according to @Marisa_C.

@MarjorieRosenbe pointed out that, in respect of the US election, TESOL has a statement about it on their website. It could be discussed with students or trainees. @SueAnnan thought that IATEFL did something similar. However, IATEFL is not an advocacy organisation the way that TESOL is, added Marjorie. We wrote to members after BREXIT about our goals.  Marjorie also referred participants (trainees) to the recent joint IATEFL-TESOL web conference where ‘we walked the talk’.

@Marisa_C proposed that some people think modelling these behaviours is better than preaching and asked if the participants agreed. Does this work with all kinds of contexts? To which @angelos_bollas answered ‘Absolutely. [It’s] still important to highlight them in class, isn’t it?  Especially now? Given [the election of] Trump and extreme right wing parties.’  @fionaljp thought it was good to include authentic material -news items for sure. To which Angelos replied that it opens up some room for learners to express their ideas re current events.

@Marisa_C later added that she thinks tolerance, justice, empathy, inclusion are won with knowledge, not the lack of it. To which, @MarjorieRosenbe agreed totally. Marisa added that she was inspired to do this by one idea Mario Rinvolucri used to do – called absent observations. In which one teacher taught the lesson but a DIFFerent teacher took and answered feedback on this lesson. She thought it was crazy at first but it really works in a TP group.


@Chris_Myth believed that ELT materials were very good for some diversity issues but not for LGTB inclusivity.  @angelos_bollas said that there are no LGBTW (sic) references in global coursebooks – only in Germany.  Chris responded that it is our duty, therefore, to talk about LGBTW issues in class or use texts with people from those backgrounds, or to make additional material, according to @SueAnnan.  Angelos replied that we should push publishers to start including all people equally.   @TesolMatthew said all of these, and confessed that he had teared up at the sight of Ellen DeGeneres receiving a medal of honor.  @MarjorieRosenbe said that advanced students can talk about news they hear or read and give opinions. They have to stay polite to all. @Chris_Myth concurred, but at lower levels it is easy to miss the mark from a lack of language and say bigoted sounding things.

Sadeqa Ghazal (@sadeqaghazal) asked how do we handle it if a text in a coursebook is biased? Both @fionaljp and @Chris_Myth said ‘don’t use it’, but, unfortunately for her there is no choice. @Chris_Myth added that you can get students to notice it as a critical thinking exercise. @MarjorieRosenbe stated that she likes the idea of this. Her Austrian students learned so much about different cultures from the others, it was eye-opening, she added.

@sadeqaghazal also asked if any of [the participants] teach classes where all the students are of the same community or background?  To which @angelos_bollas replied that he used to.  What can be some of the ways to make these students aware of a diverse world? asked @sadeqaghazal.  I used – a) role play, b) reading or watching about different cultures, followed by c) discussions among the students. Angelos replied that role-plays are always good for that matter. @MarjorieRosenbe commented that role plays with students taking opposite opinion from what they really believe can build tolerance. @GlenysHanson thought that Jesuits invented arguing for what one doesn’t believe. She was not sure that their aim was to build tolerance, however.

There was only one comment – a screenshot – left in the 24 hour slow burn, from @TesolMatthew, who said this was somewhat relevant:


This was a very interesting and topical #ELTchat, which demanded opinions.  As Wilson’s plenary next year will seemingly argue – teaching is never neutral.  Teachers advocate certain values. These values depend on one’s beliefs, conception of education and the teacher’s role. Some believe that all teachers should use their creativity and passion to bring about social change.

I hope I have done this chat (ahem!) justice. As I often find with these kinds of summaries there is a risk of decoupling – that is taking a reply out of context or to dissociate it from the original question asked. Please add a comment if you think this is the case or if you have been misquoted and want to clarify what you said.

Links shared during the chat as follows:

@SueAnnan – The No Project

@fionaljp shared this on using awareness raising activities on initial teacher training courses to tackle ‘native speakerism‘:

@Marisa_C shared two readings:

(1) Developing Teachers As Agents Of Social Justice Nataša Pantić & Lani Florian

(2) This British Columbia booklet called ‘Making space : teaching for diversity and social justice throughout the K-12 curriculum’ has a great questionnaire on pages 13 & 14

@MarjorieRosenbe shared a book – Thirty Games for Social Change by  Dorothy Zemach | Wayzgoose Press

The joint IATEFL-TESOL web conference: 2016:  (note: recordings only available to members after 30 November)